Category Archives: Tutorial

Sewing Leather – Part 2 – Straight Seams

If you haven’t already, read ‘Sewing Leather on a Domestic Machine – Part 1 – The Basics

Sewing Straight Seams

  • Your stitch length should be no smaller than 8-10 stitches per inch (2.5-3.5mm).  Smaller stitches could cause your seamline to tear. 
  • Do not back stitch at the beginning or end of your seams.  To secure your threads pull the upper thread through to the underside and tie the two threads in a knot (or pull both threads to the middle between the layers and tie off there)
  • You can loosen your top and bottom thread tensions slightly if you think this improves the look of your seam.  This will probably be necessary if you are using a thicker thread.
  • Leather doesn’t ravel and it’s neater if you keep your seam allowances quite small.  I used 1cm seam allowances but you can use ½ inch seams if you are an inches and feet kind of person.
  • To convert this post to imperial measurements substitute 1/2″ when I’ve used 1cm and 1″ when I’ve used 2cm.

Now we’re up to the action part.


Sample 1 – Straight seam pressed open

IMG_0943

I’ve used a lightweight suede for my sample

  1. Cut 4 squares or rectangles.  Mine are about 12x10cm
  2. Sew them together in pairs, right sides together.
  3. Open your seam allowances and gently hammer or roll them open
  4. Apply a very thin layer of glue to the underside of your seam allowances and stick them down.
  5. Place your pair of assembled pairs right sides together.  Match your seams exactly and use clips to hold them together while sewing.
  6. Clip corners off first seams to reduce bulk then open and glue seams open as you did for the first pairs.
    IMG_0937IMG_0936

Sample 2 – Straight seam pressed to the side and topstitched

IMG_0973

In this sample you’ll be learning a clever trick called ‘seam splitting’.  This is used to reduce bulk where seams intersect.  The measurement rule for your seam split is that it is twice the width of your seam allowance or hem, therefore if your seam allowance is 1cm your seam split will measure 2cm.

There is very little gluing involved in these seams because the top stitching holds most of the seam allowances flat.

  1. Cut 4 squares or rectangles.  Mine are about 10-12cm
  2. Sew them together in pairs, right sides together.
    IMG_0938
  3. Snip into one seam allowance.  In this case I have a 1cm seam allowance so I’m making my snips 2cm from the raw edge.
    Note:  Clip only one seam allowance
    IMG_0939
  4. The ends of the seams are pressed open and the middle of the seams are pressed to one side (the side you will be topstitching on).
    IMG_0971
  5. Edgestitch (or topstitch) your seam.  With right sides up, start from the opposite side of the seam to where your edgestitching will be.  Begin by sewing across the open seam allowance to secure it about .5cm from the edge (this also anchors your thread).  Sew across the seam, sink your needle and swivel your work then edgestitch the seam, checking that your seams are folded the right way on the underside and being caught in the seam.  When you near the seam split at the end check that the seam allowances are open.  Edgestitch to the end, sink your needle, swivel your work and stitch across the seam and the seam allowance.

    IMG_0941
    Once you’re done this is what it should look like on the right and wrong sides.
  6. Place your pair of assembled pairs right sides together.  Match your seams exactly and use clips to hold them together while sewing.
    IMG_0972
  7. Snip into one seam allowance 2cm from outer edges as in step 3 above.  Edgestitch the seam as you did in step 4 above making sure that the seam allowances at the seam intersection are open as you sew across.  You will only catch one of them and leave the other free.
    IMG_0975
  8. Glue down the loose seam allowance in the centre of the seam to form a square at the intersection.
    IMG_0976

Seam Splitting Rules

Seam splits are used to reduce bulk in areas of the garment where seams will intersect.  Leather seams can be quite bulky and splitting the seam, so that it lies open at seam intersections, reduces bulk and helps those areas lie flat.

  • Use seam splits where you are top/edge stitching seams.  You don’t need to use them for seams which are pressed open and glued.
  • Only snip one seam allowance – the opposite seam allowance to the side where your topstitching will be.
  • They are always twice the width of your seams or twice the width of your hem.  Therefore if your seams are 1cm you’ll make your clip 2cm from the edge.  If you have a 3 cm hem, you’ll snip 6cm from the edge.
  • Seam split 1cm (1/2”) above and below the sewing lines of any pocket or tab stitching lines, ie if you’re going to be sewing a pocket welt, jet, patch pocket, tab or anything else across a seam later in the construction process you’ll want to put a split in the seam to reduce bulk.
  • Make sure you catch both seam allowances with your top/edge stitching.
  • Always glue down loose splits, like you did in the centre of the seam.  Don’t leave them flopping about.

Further reading

There are many other ways to sew seams in leather.  I’ve included these two because they’re the ones I’m planning to use in the garments I’ll be sewing.  For more techniques you can refer to other resources like:

Coming Soon

I’ll be adding tutorials for sewing curved seams, trimmed facings, jet pockets and zipped sleeves with godet inserts as time allows.

Please note:  I am a complete beginner at leather sewing.  I’m learning as I go and I’m just discovering these techniques and passing them on to you.  You might know a better way of doing the things I’m doing and I’m happy for you to share that, but I don’t know anything more than what I’m including in my tutorials because I’m not an experienced leather garment sewer.  Let’s all experiment together and share our findings.

Sewing Leather on a Domestic Machine – Part 1 – The Basics

Have you ever wondered whether you can sew leather on your domestic machine?  Well have I got great news for you!  The answer is yes, and with a few easy to find tools, many of which you may already own it’s not difficult.  My machine copes better with leather than it does with a heavy denim.  For these tutorials I have used apparel weight leather, the kind you’ll find in leather jackets, skirts or pants.  I have sewn them on my ancient Bernina Favorit 740 which was manufactured in 1964.

First of all you’re going to need a few tools.  Most of this is pretty easy to get your mitts on, and it’s not expensive, unless you own a Bernina and need to buy a walking foot.  But don’t worry, there are work arounds.

Presser feet

You will need a Teflon foot, a roller foot or a walking foot.  The Teflon foot prevents the foot from sticking to the surface of your leather.  So far my Teflon foot has been working fine so I haven’t tried using my walking foot or roller foot yet.  If you don’t have these try applying a strip of Scotch invisible tape to the bottom of your regular presser foot, apparently it works like having a Teflon foot.

If you have difficulty with the leather sticking to your foot or the bed of your machine, or stretching when you sew it, you can place tissue paper underneath and/or on top of your leather pieces to help it slide through and tear it away after you’ve sewn your seam.

IMG_0987
Top:  Walking foot;  Left:  teflon foot;  Right: Roller foot.  This is a low shank foot with a Bernina low shank adapter. 

Leather needle

The leather needle has a triangle shaped point which cuts a neat hole with every stitch into the leather.  If you are doing any hand sewing use a glover’s needle which has the same shaped point.

Leather needle

Glue

Because you can’t iron leather to press it flat, you’ll use glue to stick your seam allowances down so they lie flat.  Professionals use white cement, Barge is a brand I’ve seen people use online but that’s not available in New Zealand so I’m just using Uhu glue and I’ve also got a tube of Ados contact adhesive from Bunnings.  They seem to do the trick fine.  You need a glue which is tacky when it’s applied so don’t use PVA or anything like that.  It’s super stinky so make sure you’re not getting high while using it, unless you like that kind of thing.  There’s no judgement here…

Professionals use an oil can to dispense the glue but I’ve gone with the low tech option of a cotton bud (Q-tip) to spread mine on.  I squeeze a thin layer out of the tube onto the underside of the seam first and then smear it around with the cotton bud.

There’s no need to go crazy here.  Just a little bit holds the seams in a lightweight leather.  Try to keep the glue away from the area where you will be sewing later so your needle doesn’t get glue on it.

My first sample was a very lightweight suede which moved around a lot when I was applying the glue.  In this case I found it easier to smear the glue onto the garment where the seam allowance will be stuck down.  When I put it on the underside of the seam allowance it flopped around a bit and I sometimes got some on the right side of the seam allowance.

Thread

For my samples I used standard Mettler sewing thread but if I was sewing a garment I would use a thicker stronger thread.  It would be very disappointing to have a seam break in a garment and this would be likely as leather does stretch and a leather garment may have a much longer life span than other clothing.  I’ve bought a thin but strong Coats Nylbond industrial thread for when I eventually make my daughter’s leather jacket.  I expect my domestic machine will have no trouble sewing with it, some thicker threads don’t work well in domestic machines, but this one is not much thicker than a standard thread.

I have seen a suggestion in a bag making book to use two strands of standard thread in the needle if you can’t find a matching colour for top stitching.  If you are going to do this feed the threads either side of the upper tension disc in your machine.

Hammer or Leather Seam Roller

I have a leather seam roller because I found one in a op-shop many years ago and bought it on the off-chance it might come in handy one day (it’s like I’m psychic), but if you don’t have one of these you can use a ball pein hammer or a rubber mallet to gently hammer your seams open.  I’ve got a hammer too as I think thicker seam allowances might benefit from a bit of bashing to lie flat.

Leather seam roller
Leather seam roller – image: Craftsy

Clips

You’ll need some clips to hold your seams together instead of pins.  You can’t use pins because they make holes and that’s very undesirable when using leather.  I use amazing clips from Made Marion and I have them in two sizes for different size jobs.  They come in super handy for all kinds of tasks so once you have them you’ll probably find other things to use them for.  They’re normally used for quilting so are easy to obtain from quilting shops.  Clover call them Wonder Clips.

Wonder clips

Now you’re ready to practise sewing leather by making some samples so head to the next tutorial – Part 2 – Sewing straight seams.

Please note:  I am a complete beginner at leather sewing.  I’m learning as I go and I’m just discovering these techniques and passing them on to you.  You might know a better way of doing the things I’m doing and I’m happy for you to share that, but I don’t know anything more than what I’m including in my tutorials because I’m not an experienced leather garment sewer.  Let’s all experiment together and share our findings.

Perfect intersecting seams tutorial

I’ve just used this technique to make the Sew Chic Tia Dress and it works so well I thought I’d share it.

Here are the bodice pieces from the Tia dress. I’ve sewn the upper bodice pieces together and on the centre seam I’ve marked the point 1.5cm from the centre front and lower edge with a dot and finished my stitching there.

Pin the upper bodice to the lower bodice matching notches and the centre front dots.

Stitch each side of the seam separately. Hopefully you can see that I’ve sewn off the edge on each side a little. There is a minute gap at the intersection which will allow the intersecting seams to lay perfectly flat.

In case it’s not clear here it is with some lines to help show the gap. The blue lines show the positions of the edges and the centre front seam, the yellow lines are the stitching. The gap is very small, only the width of a stitch.

Clip seams and trim the point a little. Press one side of the seam open.

Then press the other side open creating a neat fold with the excess fabric at the point.

Et voila!